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Community OR - Join in!

Welcome to the Community OR Group pages on which we’ll be posting comments, information, news of our events and activities, reports of meetings and other interesting features.

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Recent Blog Posts

Monday, 20 Feb 2017
Dr Huw Evans

I've added the report on the Older Persons Listening Project to the site.

For a more in-depth account of the project and its findings, please contact Bethan Smith (report author) at Interlink on: 01443 846 200 or

"The Older Person’s Listening Project is a Participatory Action Research project that has to date involved over 40 ‘volunteer listeners’ including local individuals and staff from over 25 organisations; from the third sector, public health, housing and county borough councils. Everyone involved shared the common belief that older people are highly valuable members of our communities, with experiences and knowledge that should be listened to, shared and acted upon. However, evidence shows that a lot of older people in our communities are often subject to loneliness and isolation. The issue of loneliness and isolation is a complex one, which affects people differently, and has a wide range of causes and different impacts. The Listening Project has been engaging with over 50’s and recording their experiences using a tool called SenseMaker®. Unlike traditional consultation, SenseMaker® is used to capture and make sense of what matters most to people, making research more about people than the researcher’s agenda; whilst still generating strong evidence to support and guide the work of the third sector and to advocate the voices of community members at a strategic level."

The work is an example of community OR in practice

Tuesday, 29 Mar 2016
Dr Huw Evans

I came across this book review - Positive Deviance seems to be a Community OR approach on the World Bank website -


" ... each community has to make the journey of discovery – no shortcuts ..."

Wednesday, 17 Feb 2016
Dr Huw Evans

I have recently become involved, in a voluntary capacity, with a steering group seeking to develop the impact the Made Open ( platform has on enabling people to engage with other citizens in developing solutions to local problems and/or connecting people to ideas and initiatives.

The Made Open platform has been adopted by Monmouthshire County Council ( to this end but has yet to attract a wide audience and activity is lower than the Council would like.  The platform is in use in Tasmania where it seems to have attracted more interest and activity (

An initial observation has been that the platform has been acquired with little focus across the Council on how it supports activity towards the delivery of the strategic aims.  It may have been seen as providing as support for citizens to act on their own behalf in the light of the reducing capability and capacity of the Council as budget cuts are made and to develop engagement and volunteering.

The idea of developing dialogue and engagement between citizens and empowering them to develop solutions to local issues is of interest to Community OR practitioners and theorists.  I’d welcome any thoughts, ideas and experiences of the use of these types of ICT platform to support citizen led community development.


Huw Evans

Friday, 29 Jan 2016
Dr Huw Evans

Tiago Peixoto, World Bank & Jonathan Fox, American University have produced this paper - available via the following link:


This paper reviews evidence on the use of 23 information and communication technology (ICT) platforms to project citizen voice to improve public service delivery. This meta-analysis focuses on empirical studies of initiatives in the global South, highlighting both citizen uptake (‘yelp’) and the degree to which public service providers respond to expressions of citizen voice (‘teeth’). The conceptual framework further distin- guishes between two trajectories for ICT-enabled citizen voice: Upwards accountability occurs when users provide feedback directly to decision-makers in real time, allowing policy-makers and program managers to identify and address service delivery problems – but at their discretion. Downwards accountability, in contrast, occurs either through real time user feedback or less immediate forms of collective civic action that publicly call on service providers to become more accountable and depends less exclusively on decision-makers’ discretion about whether or not to act on the information provided. This distinction between the ways in which ICT platforms mediate the relationship between citizens and service providers allows for a precise analytical focus on how different dimensions of such platforms contribute to public sector responsiveness. These cases suggest that while ICT platforms have been relevant in increasing policymakers’ and senior managers’ capacity to respond, most of them have yet to influence their willingness to do so. 

Tuesday, 24 Nov 2015
Dr Huw Evans

Case Study - Reviewing Business Plans

I have posted a link - below - to a case study of an intervention with a community development charity.  The work drew upon the principles, approaches and processes associated with community operational research.



Thursday, 22 Oct 2015
Dr Huw Evans

My thanks to Ruth Kaufman for making me aware of this report by Rob Abercrombie, Ellen Harries and Rachel Wharton for LankellyChase Foundation and New Philanthropy Capital - you can access it via this link -

The authors talk about 'Operational Researchers' and the distinction between 'hard' and 'soft' OR, even describing the potential approaches of each advocate/practitioner.  I'm not so sure the distinctions are that easy to define in real life and that hybrids are the reality for many ...  For me change will involve both hard and soft OR - each informing the other.

For me community OR has a big part to play in understanding the need for change and designing systrems, processes .... and maybe it's too simplistic to talk in terms of just 'soft' approaches when there are a range of ways of addressing change.  what do you think?

Wednesday, 21 Oct 2015
Dr Huw Evans

This report by Simon Burall of Involve focusing on a more deliberative approach to democracy in the UK should have implications for community OR in the impact of COR approaches to, and processes for, public engagement in deliberative democratic frameworks.

"Democratic reform comes in waves, propelled by technological, economic, political and social developments. There are periods of rapid change, followed by relative quiet.

We are currently in a period of significant political pressure for change to our institutions of democracy and government. With so many changes under discussion it is critically important that those proposing and carrying out reforms understand the impact that different reforms might have.

Most discussions of democratic reform focus on electoral democracy. However, for all their importance in the democratic system, elections rarely reveal what voters think clearly enough for elected representatives to act on them. Changing the electoral system will not alone significantly increase the level of democratic control held by citizens.

Room for a View, by Involve’s director Simon Burall, looks at democratic reform from a broader perspective than that of elections. Drawing on the work of democratic theorists, it uses a deliberative systems approach to examine the state of UK democracy. Rather than focusing exclusively on the extent to which individuals and communities are represented within institutions, it is equally concerned with the range of views present and how they interact.

Adapting the work of the democratic theorist John Dryzek, the report identifies seven components of the UK’s democratic system, describing and analysing the condition of each in turn. Assessing the UK’s democracy though this lens reveals it to be in fragile health. The representation of alternative views and narratives in all of the UK system’s seven components is poor, the components are weakly connected and, despite some positive signs, deliberative capacity is decreasing.

Room for a View suggests that a focus on the key institutions isn’t enough. If the health of UK democracy is to be improved, we need to move away from thinking about the representation of individual voters to thinking about the representation of views, perspectives and narratives. Doing this will fundamentally change the way we approach democratic reform"

See the report and a summary via the link -

Monday, 12 Oct 2015
Dr Huw Evans

This blog from the Nurture Development website describes a scenario and an opportunity for Community OR to engage with people to support them in developing their communities and getting involved in decision-making about what affects them.

'Soft' OR approaches can draw upon 'hard' OR to inform engaging people in decision-making, to develop people's understanding and create better dialogue with a view to better outcomes and address the risk of 'hard' OR analysis being done in isolation followed by top down imposed solutions.  It's a more strategic way of making public policy decisions - not always evident in some of the responses to budget cuts in the public and 3rd sectors.

Food for thought .....

Monday, 21 Sep 2015
Dr Huw Evans

See the link - - and below:

On Thursday, September 24th from 9:30am – 11:30am EDT, The GovLab will host its third online gathering of CrowdLaw practitioners from around the world. This third installment in an ongoing series on the evolution of CrowdLaw — crowdsourced legislative and regulatory lawmaking — aims to enable participants to share their experiences and learn from one another.

With several #CrowdLaw experiments already well underway and celebrating their first or even second anniversaries, the goal of this session is to deepen our collective understanding of what works, what doesn’t, how to assess impact, and accelerate the implementation of more effective and legitimate participatory lawmaking practices. 

Confirmed participants include:

How to Participate? The session will be held online, September 24, 9:30 – 11:30 am EDT.

How Do I Log In? Clic on this link or join by phone: +1 415 762 9988 (US Toll) using the meeting ID: 943 543 497. International numbers available here.

Conference Format? The discussion will begin with a series of lightning talks by practitioners from eight countries about their experiences. Presentations will be 5 minutes and will focus on key learnings about what works and what doesn’t. Following the presentations, we will have a moderated conversation about: 

  • Design: What makes for successful Crowdlaw projects: what works, what doesn’t
  • Incentives: How to encourage people to participate?
  • Impediments: What are the legal, cultural, technological and other obstacles?
  • Metrics: How to measure what works and demonstrate both legitimacy and effectiveness?

We invite you to tune into the event on Thursday and submit any and all questions you have to the event chat or to @TheGovLab on Twitter or using the hashtag #crowdlaw. 

If you’d like more resources on CrowdLaw, please see:

  • The GovLab’s summaries and videos of the two prior meetings held on June 2 and June 16, 2014, with representatives from 11 countries. 
  • The GovLab’s publicly accessible crowdlaw Zotero folder, featuring research resources and material on the subject.
  • @TheGovLab’s #Crowdlaw Twitter List to follow and learn about CrowdLaw developments from practitioners and leaders online.

Tuesday, 7 Apr 2015
Dr Huw Evans

Call for papers: 

Community Operational Research: Innovations, Internationalization and Agenda-Setting Applications

A special issue of the European Journal of Operational Research (EJOR)


OR practitioners have had an interest in supporting community development for almost half a century – well before the term ‘community operational research’ was first coined in the mid-1980s. While the initial focus in the 80s was OR serving community groups (grass-roots citizen movements), it quickly became evident that communities often wanted to address highly complex social and environmental issues that required the involvement of public, private and voluntary sector organizations too. Indeed, projects were often initiated and funded by these organizations. Nevertheless, the defining feature of Community OR remained the meaningful engagement of communities and concerned citizens.

Community OR is now at an exciting point in its development, with the potential for major innovations. This is because of a renewed interest in both Europe and the USA, which coincides with growing activity in pro-bono (volunteer) OR and a diversification of applications in developing countries. In addition, the increasing importance of environmental issues to local and global communities offers new opportunities to support those communities in making a difference. Finally, new approaches to data analytics offer the potential for innovation but also bring with them a significant challenge: how to ‘democratize’ their use so communities, and not just large public and private sector organizations, can directly benefit. These are the contexts in which we call for papers for a special issue of EJOR on Community OR, focused on innovations, internationalization and agenda-setting applications.

The Editors of this special issue of EJOR are Michael Johnson (University of Massachusetts Boston, USA) and Gerald Midgley (University of Hull, UK). They have each edited books on Community OR that have consolidated and promoted the field on their own sides of the Atlantic (Midgley and Ochoa-Arias, 2004; Johnson, 2012). Their collaboration on editing this special issue marks a desire, not only to share learning across the USA and Europe, but also to form a truly global research community, showcasing a wide range of international innovations and applications.

Submissions to this special issue may be on any area of the theory, methodology and application of Community OR, using any relevant methods, and working with any kinds of organization – as long as the needs and involvement of communities and citizens remain central. The editors welcome papers that reflect on how to address the concerns of disadvantaged or marginalized communities, and we are especially interested in papers that are able to ground their analyses in examples of Community OR practice. The projects reported may represent the localized concerns of communities, but the theories, methodologies, methods and solutions developed to understand and address those concerns should have the potential to inform scholarship and practice around the world.

The special issue editors welcome proposals of 1-2 pages by 30 October 2015, and those writing the most compelling proposals will be invited to work them up into full papers. Manuscripts will be expected by 31 July 2016. All submissions will need to conform to the usual requirements of EJOR and will be peer reviewed as normal. We plan for the special issue to be finalized by early 2017. Please direct inquiries to Michael Johnson ( or Gerald Midgley (



Johnson M (ed.) (2012). Community-Based Operations Research: Decision Modeling for Local Impact and Diverse Populations. Springer, Boston MA.

Midgley G and Ochoa-Arias AE (eds.) (2004). Community Operational Research: OR and Systems Thinking for Community Development. Kluwer, New York.